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Bringing Inclusive Filmmaking to Toronto International Film Festival and Disney!

Back in January, I was thrilled to receive the news that not one, but two, of our films had been selected to screen at Toronto International Film Festival Kids (TIFF Kids). Inclusion Makes the World More Vibrant, produced inclusively at Taste Creative, and I Am Black and Beautiful created through our inclusive filmmaking program at Bus Stop Films were both selected to screen at the prestigious festival, known as one of the most important cinematic events for children’s content in the world.

Being a children’s film festival meant I got to show our films to cinemas filled with kids, and conduct Q and A sessions with them after the screenings. This made for some real entertainment. At one point I asked the audience of kids if anyone knew what an advocate was. To which one student called out, “Someone who really loves avocados!” Cheeky! Seconds later, there was a more serious response; a young boy in the second row called out, “Someone who wants to help others be heard.” That response was heartwarming. In fact, there were some extremely thought provoking questions from the young audience members which was wonderful.

As an offshoot event and extension of Toronto International Film Festival (one of the big five film festivals of the world alongside Cannes, Berlin, Sundance and Venice) I was very humbled and honoured to also be asked to deliver the closing keynote address at the TIFF Kids industry forum.

My keynote, entitled ‘Transforming the industry with Inclusive Filmmaking,’ presented me with an incredible opportunity to advocate for inclusion in the film industry at a global event, where international film industry executives were in attendance. Excitingly, we also had the opportunity to bring one of my students from Bus Stop Films, Joni Campbell, to deliver a Q and A session with me at the end of my keynote. Joni, an amazing advocate in her own right and current Bus Stop Films ambassador, spoke passionately about the need for employers and those in power to not have low expectations of people with an intellectual disability. We showcased her story by giving the audience a sneak peek of a new documentary we are launching mid year called Breaking the Bizyou can watch the first five minutes here.

Unbeknownst to me, a representative from Disney, who was also attending the festival showcasing his work, saw my presentation and invited me to present at Disney Animation Studios!

I couldn’t believe it, but the very next week Henry and I found ourselves at Walt Disney Animation Studios HQ in Burbank, LA. Fortuitously, we had arranged to bring Gerard O’Dwyer — a Bus Stop Films veteran and incredible actor who happens to have Down Syndrome — to LA to work on a project with us (you’ll find out about that in the next blog!) So I was able to invite Gerard to help me deliver the presentation, which included him reciting Shakespeare to a room full of Disney folk!

In 11 days we were able to make some incredible impact and put the wheels in motion for continued collaboration.

Our message is always simple; it isn’t hard to make a difference, all you have to do is be inclusive.

Genevieve Clay-Smith

Genevieve is a global pioneer of inclusive filmmaking and the co-founder of purpose-led film production company Taste Creative and Bus Stop Films, a pioneering, not-for-profit organisation that uses filmmaking to raise the profile of people living with disabilities.

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